By His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Lecture given in New York City on December 2, 1966

To encourage all worshippers to progress to the final goal, Lord Krsna allows for methods of worship besides pure devotion.

jnana-yajnena chapy anye
yajanto mam upasate
ekatvena prithaktvena

bahudha vishvato-mukham

aham kratur aham yajnah
svadhaham aham aushadham
mantro ’ham aham evajyam

aham agnir aham hutam

pitaham asya jagato
mata dhata pitamahah
vedyam pavitram omkara

rik sama yajur eva cha

gatir bharta prabhuh sakshi
nivasah sharanam suhrit
prabhavah pralayah sthanam

nidhanam bijam avyayam

“Others, who engage in sacrifice by the cultivation of knowledge, worship the Supreme Lord as the one without a second, as diverse in many, and in the universal form.

“But it is I who am the ritual, I the sacrifice, the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant. I am the butter and the fire and the offering.

“I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support, and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier, and the syllable om. I am also the Rig, the Sama, and the Yajur Vedas.

“I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge, and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place, and the eternal seed.”—Bhagavad-gita 9.15–18

Those who directly worship the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, have been described as mahatma, “great souls.” Other worshipers, who cannot conceive of the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly on account of being less advanced, are described here. Anye means “others.” These others worship the Absolute Truth in three different ways, as first-class, second-class, and third-class worshipers.

In every department, as you have experience in the material world, things are first class, second class, and third class. Even the whole material world is under the control of first class, second class, and third class. First class is the mode of goodness, second class is the mode of passion, and third class is the mode of ignorance. Similarly, in every department, more or less, there are three classes.

There are persons who worship the Absolute Truth not directly as the Personality of Godhead but as ahangrahopasanam, which means taking oneself as the Supreme. The correct understanding of taking oneself as the Supreme is to see oneself as the part and parcel of the Supreme. If I study myself, then I can understand what God is, because God and I are of the same quality; we are both spiritual entities. The only difference is that quantitatively God is great and I am small.

Ahangrahopasanam is the first kind of worship, or upasana, mentioned here that is not direct worship of God. The next is ekatvena prithaktvena. Prithaktvena means pantheism. There are persons who worship any demigod as God. Their opinion is that the demigods are different forms of God so if we accept any form as God and worship him, we shall benefit; we shall approach the highest perfection. That is another section of worshipers.

God is everywhere. There is no denying this fact, because by His energy He is everywhere. We living entities are His energy. We are the superior energy of God. Apareyam itas tv anyam prakritim viddhi me param: “Besides these [eight material energies], there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities.” (Gita 7.5) Param means superior. We are the energy of God, and the energy and the energetic are one. Just like the sun and the sunshine—they’re not different. Wherever there is sunshine there is sun. You cannot deny that. Similarly, wherever there is the energy of God there is God. In that way everything is God. Prithaktvena. Pantheism.

These are different processes. But one has to transcend these processes. Simply studying the sunshine is not a complete study of the sun. Although the sunshine is not different from the sun, if you simply study the sunshine you will not get a full understanding of the sun.

The third type of worship mentioned here is worship of vishvato-mukham, the universal form. It is stated in the shastras, the scriptures, that the hills are the bones of God; vegetation is just like hairs on the body of the Lord; the ocean is the navel of God; the highest planet, Brahmaloka, is the head of God; the lowest planet, Patalaloka, is the sole of the foot of God. In this way the whole universal form is described.

In the Line of Worship

Three types of worshipers have been described. Someone prefers the universal form. Someone else thinks, “Everything—whatever we see—is God.” And someone else prefers to think, “I am God.”

These are different methods of appreciating God. Persons who follow them are accepted as worshipers because they have taken to the line of worship. They are better than persons who are just like animals, simply eating, sleeping, defending, and mating.

The impersonalists prefer these three processes. And personalists prefer to worship directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. The others are all transcendentalists; they’re in the line. But here in the Bhagavad-gita those who directly worship the Supreme Lord have been described as mahatma, “great souls. And those who worship in other processes have been described as anye, “others.” They have not been given as much importance, although they have been accepted because they have come into the line.

Suppose you accept the universal form of God. That form is a fact, because the universe is a manifestation of the energy of God. And the energy of God and God are not different. Therefore one who takes the manifestation of the energy as God is not mistaken. That is true, because there is nothing beyond God. If you think, “I am God,” yes, you are also God, because there is nothing beyond God.

If you think everything is God, that is true, because in the higher conception there is nothing beyond God. Sarvam khalv idam brahma. Sarvam —everything—is brahma, or God. But the Vaishnavas, who are personalists, take it in a different way. Why? Because in the Bhagavad-gita (9.4) the Lord says, maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina: “I am spread all over the universe, all over the manifestation, in My impersonal feature.” Mat-sthani sarva-bhutani na caham teshv avasthitah: “Everything is resting on Me, but I am not there.” This philosophy of simultaneous oneness and difference is accepted by Lord Chaitanya, and it is also accepted in the Bhagavad-gita.

There is nothing beyond the form of Krishna, with two hands, holding a flute. One has to come to this point. You may go in a different way—accepting yourself as God, accepting everything as God, accepting the universal form of God—but to make actual progress you have come to this point. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (7.19):

bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti

sa mahatma su-durlabhah

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” You have to make progress for many, many births. You have taken to the line. That’s all right. But coming to the conclusion will take some time. By processes other than direct worship of Krishna, you will not come to that point in one life.

These other processes are part of the culture of spiritual knowledge. That’s all right. But simply by the culture of spiritual knowledge, without the mercy of the Supreme Lord you cannot approach the ultimate goal. Therefore in the Eighteenth Chapter (18.55) you’ll find, bhaktya mam abhijanati: “One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service.” These other methods give only a partial understanding of the Supreme, but if you accept this process of Krishna consciousness, then you directly approach the Supreme Lord.

The Direct Approach

It is said, krishna yei bhaje sei bada chatura. Bada chatura means very intelligent. One who worships Krishna directly is very intelligent. Why? Because he does not take the roundabout way. He goes directly. If it is a fact that one has to come to this point for perfection of knowledge, why not take it immediately? I may not understand anything, but let me accept it blindly.

The teacher says, “This is fire.”

The scientist says, “Oh, I’ll see the characteristics of fire. I must see. Then I shall accept.”

All right, you can see.

And somebody says, “All right, you are my teacher and you are saying that it is fire. I accept it.”

But the scientist, after studying the characteristics of fire, may come to the fire. He’ll also feel the warmth of the fire, the heat of the fire, the light of the fire. He’ll also understand. The result is the same, because fire is fire. Whether you blindly touch it or scientifically touch it, fire will act.

The Bhagavad-gita says that those who are trying to make a show of their knowledge may do that. It accepts many theories like pantheism and the universal form, but not atheism.

Of those who have come to the right conclusion, Krishna says, sa mahatma sudurlabhah: “These great souls are very rare.” Why does He say “very rare”? Because the path is not very easy. The spiritual path is not very easy, and to attain complete perfection is not very easy, especially in this age. In this age we do not live for a long time. We are not very intelligent. We may think we are very intelligent, but we are not intelligent, because we do not know who we are.

Ask anybody, “What are you?” His reply will show that he conceives of the body as the self. Therefore he’s not intelligent. He will say, “I am such and such gentleman, son of such and such gentleman. My country is such and such.” These are all false conceptions of the self.

Sanatana Goswami said, gramya-vyavahare pandita: “Laymen call me a very learned man, and I accept it. But actually I am not a learned man.” Why? “Because I do not know what I am. If I do not know what I am, then what is the use of other knowledge?”

The intelligent person who knows his real position—his constitutional position—and his relationship with Krishna takes directly to Krishna consciousness. That is recommended in the Bhagavad-gita and all scriptures. If you want to go in a roundabout way, you can, but you have to come to this ultimate point. That is the conclusion.

How Krishna Is Everything

There are divisions of Vedic knowledge: fruitive activities, the cultivation of knowledge, and worship. Lord Sri Krishna is describing fruitive activities, including sacrifice, for which we require so many things, such as clarified butter, grains, mantras, chanting, and fire. So Lord Krishna says,

aham kratur aham yajnah
svadhaham aham aushadham
mantro ’ham aham evajyam

aham agnir aham hutam

“Now, all this paraphernalia for performing a sacrifice—the fire, the clarified butter, the wood, the mantra, and other paraphernalia—everything is Me.” That’s true, because everything is produced by His energy. Everything is a transformation of His energy. Parasya brahmanah shaktih tathedam akhilam jagat: “Whatever you are seeing in the universe is simply manifestations of the different energies of the Supreme Lord.” (Vishnu Purana 1.22.53) In this room, the illumination is the energy of this light. Therefore we are seeing one another. Similarly, although the Lord is in His supreme abode, His energy is acting everywhere. Another example: The sun planet is far, far away, but its energy, sunshine, is distributed throughout the material manifestation. In this way we can understand how the Lord is everything.

Then Krishna says,

pitaham asya jagato
mata dhata pitamahah
vedyam pavitram omkara

rik sama yajur eva cha

He says, “I am the father of this material world.” How is He the father? What is the definition of father? The father gives the seed. And Krishna says, “I am also the mother.” What is the definition of mother? She receives the seed from the father, and the child is born. So matter, or the material covering, is the mother. And each of us—the spiritual spark—is a seed. We are part of the Supreme. The material energy is the energy of the father, Krishna. As I am a spiritual spark, I am also a part of the Supreme. So He is my father and mother.

Mother Worship

Some people worship the Supreme as mother, such as goddess Kali. That is materialism, because in the present conception of our life this body given by the mother is matter. Therefore to worship mother means to worship matter. That’s all. There are so many worshipers of mother. You worship your country. That is the same thing; it is material worship. This kind of worship is called shakty-upasana, or worship of the energy of the Lord and not the Lord directly. Sakti worship is materialistic. Scientists are worshiping the mother by finding out the complexities of matter.

One who worships the mother, material energy, is called a shakta. There are five stages of evolution: shakta, then ganapatya, then saura, then shaiva, then Vaishnava. This means worship of shakti, then Ganesha, then the sun god, then Shiva, then Lord Vishnu. The impersonalists worship in these five ways, called pancopasana.

One who has come to the Vishnu stage has reached the real stage. One must come not to the impersonal conception of Vishnu, but to the personal Vishnu. That is the perfection of worship.

The Lord accepts any kind of worship, but that acceptance is different from devotional acceptance. If you worship materialism, you get material benefit. And one who worships spiritually gets spiritual benefit. You cannot expect spiritual benefit from material worship. That is not possible. Different methods are accepted as worship of the Supreme, but they have different results.

Suppose you are working in an office as a clerk. You cannot expect the salary of the high-court judge. A foolish constable is not equal to the magistrate. A constable can say, “I am in government service.” That’s all right. But he is not equal to the high-court judge. Similarly, other methods are worship of God. That’s all right. But worshipers in other methods are not equal to the supreme worshiper, of whom Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (18.69), “There is nobody dearer to Me than he.”

Our ultimate aim is to come into the confidence of the Supreme Lord. For that you have to take to devotional service. The Lord says, “One can confidentially understand Me by bhakti, by devotional service, not by any other means.” (Gita 18.55) It is clearly stated: bhaktya, “by bhakti.” If you want to be directly in touch with the President, you have to work differently from an ordinary person. And if you are satisfied to be a constable in the government service, you cannot contact the President. So although there are different kinds of God worship, there are degrees and differences. We must remember that.

Going to Krishna Gradually

Then Krishna says,

gatir bharta prabhuh sakshi
nivasah sharanam suhrit
prabhavah pralayah sthanam

nidhanam bijam avyayam

Gati means destination. “Everyone is coming to Me gradually. They’re all coming to Me.” And bharta means maintainer. God is maintaining us, and He’s giving us a chance: “Come this way or that way. That’s all right. Come gradually, gradually. That’s all right.”

Prabhu means He is the Lord. Nobody can be equal to Him. In the ahangrahopasanam process, worshipers think, “I am God.” We devotees offer flowers to the Lord; they take the flower and offer it to themselves. We offer the garland to the form of the Supreme Lord; they put the garland on their own neck. You see? So the question is, “If you are God, then why aren’t others worshiping you? You are worshiping yourself. So what kind of God are you?”

One day he must come to his senses. “Well, I am God, and I am worshiping myself, but if I go to the street nobody worships me, so what kind of God am I?” I may think, “Well, I understand that God, Krishna, lifted a hill at the age of seven. Oh, I cannot lift even fifty or a hundred pounds. What kind of God am I?” This sense should come. You can worship yourself as God. That’s all right. That’s a process. But that process is to study yourself to understand the real constitution of God, not that you become God.

We should not be satisfied with these other methods. We should try to go further, on and on. When a boy is in the eighth class, his father says, “My dear boy, if you can pass this eighth class, then I can make you a magistrate.” The boy is very enthusiastic. “I shall become a magistrate.” Similarly, these other methods are for encouragement only. But we have to come to the last point: vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah (Gita 7.19): The rare great soul understands that Krishna is everything. If you want to be the rare great soul, then you have to come ultimately to Krishna, the Supreme Lord.

Thank you very much.